review of the decade

I hoped to get around to doing this before now but time slipped away. I’ve been doing things that work for me and bring me peace: yoga, vegetable consumption, and dog walks mostly. I haven’t really set aside time to write but I did make a point to add it into my planner this week because it’s also something that I enjoy.

My old neighbor posted this article on Facebook at the beginning of the year: https://www.workingmother.com/christina-fattore-unedited-decade-in-review-twitter-thread?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook  She also added her own decade in review and after much reflection, I wanted to do the same.

My rainbows and sunflowers review would look something like this:

Got Brutus
Moved to Boston
Hired as an English professor
Ran a few half marathons
Started practicing yoga
Traveled the world: China, Vietnam, all through Europe & the US
Got engaged
Got married & gained two bonus kiddos
Bought a house and can now walk to the beach
Grew our family through adoption
Took a sabbatical & started a graduate program (again)
Became a SAHM

My unedited review would be a bit different; of course, it would include all of those things but there are so many events that led up to these, some related and others not:

Devastated by having to end a toxic relationship; sold my share of our house before moving
Burnt out as a high school ELA teacher
Went through infertility & medical interventions: Surgeries, drugs, IVF.
Did not respond well to fertility meds and felt like a shell of my former self
Struggled with extreme anxiety; couldn’t exercise during IVF
Miscarried twice
Collapsed at Epcot (during miscarriage)
Lost two cousins to opioid overdoses
Lost myself and worked hard to find myself after IVF
Dealt with significant anxiety during adoption process
Struggled with identity as SAHM

Everyone acts like going through struggles are necessary to come out on the other side and of course there’s something to that but sometimes, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that what got you to the other side was nonsense and was unnecessary. Either way, I’m here now — mostly thriving — still struggling with the identity/SAHM piece but trips to see friends has definitely helped. To date, I trust my husband with a needle more than any medical professional; he’s given me HUNDREDS of shots over the years and I’m grateful for his patience though we both could have gone without all of the strain on our marriage while trying to grow our family. Still, here I am. Standing. Practicing yoga again. Walking my dog every single day (usually 3-4 times despite having a decent yard), and trying to stay grounded each day.

I really appreciated the piece that everyone sees and internalizes over what the whole reality is. Obviously, those closest to me know all that I’ve experienced over the years and I’m most grateful for those people who have chosen to listen, love, and not judge regardless of my messiness at the time.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

feast of the seven fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is an American Italian tradition and for my family, it is how we spent Christmas Eve every year growing up. My dad worked in an Emergency Room and thus worked many a Christmas but almost always had Christmas Eve off, so my fondest memories stem from that. Each year, we would go to my Aunt Sherry’s and Uncle Mark’s house where UM would cook up his seven-fished feast: baccala, calamari and homemade sauce with pasta, smoked salmon, scallops, and a few other seafood offerings in my Aunt Suzi’s gumbo.

We used to have so much fun running around and eating and enjoying each other’s company. When my husband and I started spending Christmas together, we started this tradition with our own family. We stopped traveling and stringing ourselves out and kept with this Christmas Eve offering of love, merriment, and seven fishes. This year was no different; on the menu: shrimp cocktail, scallops, lobster stuffed tilapia, crab cakes, seafood stuffed mushrooms, and calamari.

As usual, our feast was a big hit (and so were the accompaniments of vegetable and fruit trays, my mom’s cheeseball recipe with crackers, and of course, Christmas cookies. This year, though, instead of feeling my usual joy and reminiscence, I felt a deep sadness. My Uncle Mark is no longer with us; he passed fourteen years ago on the 11th. His sons, my cousins, Mike & Jack have both since passed as well. Both passed three years ago in September and December respectively.

I don’t typically miss people who are no longer around and mostly just continue on with my day but this year was different. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve felt their presence or their absence (even though they wouldn’t be celebrating in MA regardless) but it’s hit me harder than it has before and ultimately, the feast that has brought so much joy and happy memories served a different purpose this year.

I have tried to make the most of the holidays this year. Tonight, after dinner, we had cookies and opened presents from our Bruttie boy. Brutus is known around our family for delivering gifts of pajamas and books each year: This year was no different, as each of the kids got pjs and MadLibs. So fun. For me, Brutus somehow managed to order a personalized mug and book with him pictures in cartoon form — it’s awesome and such a thoughtful collaboration with my husband.

I am hoping that the pit of sadness I’m feeling is lifted a little tomorrow. I took a yin yoga class today and my body was really resisting many of the poses. (Yin is not new for me — I typically take a Yin class weekly, actually.) I’m not sure if that class stirred up something that has me in my feelings or if it was the nearly three hour long chat I had with another cousin of mine today. Either way, I’m trying to breathe my way through tonight and hopefully, bringing in that new energy and out the old will help ring in the holiday cheer tomorrow morning.

Happy holidays to those missing loved ones — and a special hug to those dealing with addiction and/or the fallout around it.

breaking the cycle

Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending an annual trip to the Finger Lakes region in NY with some of my closest college friends, their spouses, and a gaggle of other friends. There were 16 of us in total; six couples; two sisters and a friend; and another friend of the group. Ten of us are parents who were really excited for a kid-free, adults-only weekend — what a time to be alive!

We rented a limo-bus for the big wine event and spent the entirety of the day eating snacks, visiting wineries & breweries, wine tasting, and singing songs. Honestly, this is the next best thing besides a wedding reception and basically all that we have to look forward to as a time to let loose since we are all married. We capped the night off with a trip to a local bar that was within walking distance.

At the bar, we were all paired off and checking in with each other on recent moves, familial relationships, our kids, work, etc. This is not atypical. We are a group of doctors, engineers, marketers, educators, and law professionals (among other things). My friends and I seem to have similar familial backgrounds and strangely, so do our husbands — dysfunction, hurt, frustration rising to the top of the guys’ childhood experiences.

It is not lost on me that each man in this group serves as an amazing supporter of their wives, their children, and each others’ children. We are all the better for knowing one another and I cannot express my gratitude enough that within this group of men who have experience emotional abuse and more, each one of them has made promises to themselves to do better; to be better.

Each of these guys wakes up each morning, determined to be a better version of those who modeled parenting and manhood to them. Each approaches each day making deliberate decisions that encourage and better not only their spouses and children but society as a whole. Each and every day, these men break the cycle that was modeled for them — a cycle that set out to destroy the livelihood of those around them (and those including them).

My admiration runs deep for each and every single one of these guys who chooses to prioritize feelings and family over anger and abuse. We so often read about breaking cycles and statistically, we know how difficult that can be, so to be surrounded by people who looked at toxic relationships in their lives and decided they deserved better and their children will not get that exposure to such toxicity from them is really powerful.

Our bar chats were very serious, especially on the heels of a lighthearted limo ride full of wine, dancing, and scream-singing, and fortunately, our Wendy’s nightcap was also light and full of laughter, but those conversations between are so meaningful and I just cannot believe how fortunate my husband and I are to have such strong support from afar all year long and have such compassion and strength from this group of friends (most of whom we see once a year for this event and some of whom we only know because of this event).

On the drive back to MA on Sunday, I brought this up to talk to my husband about it and he noted it’s something that has stood out to him as well. We are all able to support each other so deeply because we all have respect for one another’s experiences and we trust that the support and advice given is genuine and out of care. We should all be so lucky to have such models around us and our families, pushing toward a new normal for all to see.

end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.

national adoption day

Every year, we try to observe and celebrate National Adoption Day. Our Gotcha Day is one of the most special days I’ve experienced, but we don’t tend to celebrate it wholly because it’s a mere two days after our son’s birthday. We want to give our little man all of the celebration he deserves for being so resilient and amazing and so we use the distance from his birthday to observe this special time.

Each National Adoption Day, we’ve celebrated with a special treat (usually, one involving actual sugar and not just nuts — 4 considers almonds a ‘special after-dinner treat’) and read all of our adoption picture books. 4 knows that he’s adopted; it’s something we talk about often and try to have open and honest communication about. We always want him to be able to ask questions and talk openly about his feelings now and of course when he better understands what adoption means.

National Adoption Day is such a special day for so many families. I understand that adoption started by a child being separated by his/her bio family and I’m sure there is a lot to digest and process at some point about that. I have several friends who are adopted and several more who’ve adopted (two of my sorority sisters adopted their beautiful littles and are also adopted themselves). I am so grateful for their support and openness to answering questions when I’ve had them.

I always like to take the time to think of 4’s village when National Adoption Day rolls around. We are so fortunate to have so much love showered on our little guy and even more so that we keep in touch with his former foster family. His former foster mom is amazing and she’s also his Godmother; the most special piece about maintaining a relationship with her (aside from our friendship) is the bond 4 shares with his former foster sister. I call her little girl Mother Hen — she’s only a year older than 4 but just loved him to pieces when he was a baby and they still share that bond when they’re together.

I joke that Mother Hen is 4’s ride or die; sometimes he’ll talk about her and say they’re going to drive her mom’s car for an adventure. I just picture them joyriding as teens — it’s a good thing they don’t live close-by so that this isn’t a true possibility but their bond is special and I cherish it for my son. This year for National Adoption Day, we will go through our pictures from his adoption and will read our favorite books: The Tummy Mummy and Wish are two of my personal favorites.

We try to ensure that our little love always knows how special he is and how loved he is by everyone who’s entered his life. I mean, we are talking about a small child who brought a clinic team (nine physicians from nine different departments) to tears as they beamed with pride over his growth. I love celebrating him and celebrating this special day as a family filled with joy on this special day.

 

bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.